John Fletcher, a.k.a. Ecstasy of the Group Whodini, Dies at 56

Melissa M. Munoz

John Fletcher, who as Ecstasy of the foundational hip-hop group Whodini was the motor for some of the genre’s 1st pop successes, donning a flamboyant Zorroesque hat all the though, died on Wednesday. He was 56.

Jonnelle Fletcher, his daughter, verified the dying in a statement but did not specify the cause or say exactly where he died.

In the mid-1980s, Whodini — designed up originally of Mr. Fletcher and Jalil Hutchins, who had been afterwards joined by the D.J. Grandmaster Dee (born Drew Carter) — released a string of essential hits, together with “Friends,” “Freaks Occur Out at Night” and “One Appreciate.” Whodini introduced as street-savvy sophisticates with a pop ear, and Mr. Fletcher was the group’s outsize character and most vivid rapper.

“I can not sing,” he told The Los Angeles Occasions in 1987. “But I heard anyone rap just one day and I stated to myself, ‘I can do that.’ I rap in pitch. I check out to be exclusive. I have my have design and style.”

John Fletcher was born on June 7, 1964, and grew up in the Wyckoff Gardens assignments in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. He very first worked with Mr. Hutchins, who was from nearby Gowanus, when Mr. Hutchins was trying to report a theme music for the recently influential radio D.J. Mr. Magic.

That collaboration obtained important area awareness, and Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Hutchins had been quickly signed by Jive Data, which named them Whodini. They speedily recorded “Magic’s Wand,” produced by Thomas Dolby, and “The Haunted Property of Rock,” a Halloween music.

“Ecstasy was really one particular of the first rap stars,” Barry Weiss, the govt who signed them, wrote on Instagram. “Not just a excellent voice and wordsmith but a ladies’ male and intercourse image when they were quite scarce in the early times of rap. Whodini assisted usher in a female viewers to what experienced been a conventional male artwork variety.”

Most of the group’s earliest content was recorded in London when Mr. Fletcher was clean out of large college. Its 1983 self-titled debut album was developed by Conny Plank, who experienced also manufactured the bands Kraftwerk and Neu! Whodini also toured Europe in advance of acquiring real success back again in the United States.

“We did not go to college and get a college or university degree, but that was our schooling, just viewing the planet,” Mr. Fletcher mentioned in a 2018 interview with the YouTube channel HipHop40.

For its comply with-up album, “Escape” (1984), Whodini commenced performing with the producer Larry Smith, who amplified its seem and gave it a bit of attractive scuff. (Mr. Smith was also accountable for Operate-DMC’s breakout albums.) “Escape” contained the songs that would turn out to be Whodini’s seminal hits, notably “Friends” and “Five Minutes of Funk” (introduced as flip sides on the similar 12-inch one) and “Freaks Occur Out at Night time.”

“Friends,” a skeptical storytelling music about deceit, was a smash in its possess suitable and had a sturdy afterlife as sample materials, most notably on Nas and Lauryn Hill’s “If I Ruled the World (Consider That).”

“Five Minutes of Funk” — which would turn out to be even far more broadly identified as the concept tunes for the extended-jogging hip-hop movie show “Video Music Box” — deployed a clever countdown motif woven by way of the lyrics. “In creating that tune,” Mr. Fletcher instructed HipHop40, “we pictured it blaring from the home windows in the jobs as we walked by way of it on a summer’s working day.”

As hip-hop was beginning to acquire world-wide discover, Whodini was consistently in the vicinity of the center of the action. The group was managed by the mounting impresario Russell Simmons and appeared on the inaugural Fresh Fest tour, hip-hop’s very first arena bundle.

But as Operate-DMC was using hip-hop to edgier territory, Whodini remained committed to smoothness. “We have been the rap group that sort of bridged the hole in between the bands and the rappers,” Mr. Fletcher explained to HipHop40, adding that he and Mr. Hutchins have been conscious that hip-hop was still struggling to acquire acceptance among the radio programmers, and wrote songs appropriately: “We desired to curse, but we could not curse.”

Mr. Fletcher was also a important innovator in introducing melody to rapping. “Ecstasy was the direct vocalist on most Whodini tunes due to the fact anything at all that we could enjoy he could rap proper to it in key,” Mr. Hutchins stated in an job interview with the hip-hop website The Foundation.

“Escape” went platinum, and Whodini’s subsequent two albums, “Back in Black” (1986) and “Open Sesame” (1987), the two went gold. On “One Love” (from “Back in Black”), which experienced streaks of the sound that was to before long coalesce as new jack swing, Mr. Fletcher was reflective, practically somber:

The words ‘love’ and ‘like’ each have four letters
But they’re two various matters completely
‘Cause I have liked a lot of ladies in my day
But just like the wind they’ve all blown absent

Havelock Nelson and Michael A. Gonzales, in their guide “Bring the Sound: A Guideline to Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture” (1991), explained Whodini as “a wonderfully kept creating in the middle of Brooklyn’s ghetto heaven, personable figures floating carefully by means of a turbulent sea of tough-main attitude and crush-groove insanity.”

In no little aspect that was due to the fact of the group’s fashion. Whodini dressed with flair: leather-based jackets, at times with no shirt flowing pants or quick shorts loafers. And most crucially, Mr. Fletcher’s flat-brimmed leather hats, which grew to become his signature seem, impressed by a wool gaucho he noticed in a store on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn that he experienced remade in leather. Just before extensive, he experienced many.

“He experienced them in red had them in white two in black, a single with an African headpiece on it,” Mr. Hutchins mentioned in a 2013 interview with the Alabama web-site AL.com. “He had distinctive types, but the first 1 was his favorite.”

Whodini was also just one of the very first hip-hop teams to use dancers in their stage demonstrates. A youthful Jermaine Dupri acquired a single of his earliest breaks as a dancer for the group. He later repaid the favor, signing Whodini to his label, So So Def, on which it released its final album, “Six,” in 1996. Whodini ongoing to accomplish usually into the 2000s.

Information on Mr. Fletcher’s survivors in addition to his daughter was not right away available.

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